A Place Where Everybody Knows Your Name: Should That Be School?

Kim Bearden
September 02, 2014

Kim Bearden

Best Selling Author, Co-founder at Ron Clark Academy, and National Teacher Hall of Fame; Organization Culture/Climate and Communication Specialist
Education Motivation

Written by Maureen Downey

At the AJC Decatur Book Festival this weekend, I had the delightful job of introducing the dynamic Kim Bearden, co-founder of the Ron Clark Academy and the recipient the Oscar of teaching, the Milken award. She is also the author of the new book, “Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me.”

Bearden was a marvel to both watch and to hear. I was in awe of her ability to jump on and off the stage in high heels. Her agility speaks to the cardio-vascular benefits of running a school where teachers dance in the halls and fly down a two-story twisting blue slide in the school's atrium.

She gave an inspiring talk about finding solace and inspiration in her students, especially at a point in her life when her marriage was imploding in a free fall worthy of a Lifetime movie.

The audience asked wonderful questions and I asked two questions of my own. The first: Were great teachers like her and Ron Clark – whom she met at the Disney Teacher awards where both were being honored and who was so inspired by Bearden that he moved to Atlanta to create a school with her --  born or made?

Her answer:  Both.

Bearden said teaching is an art and a science, and the focus now is on the science of teaching, at times to the detriment of the art of teaching.

While aspiring teachers can be taught the science of teaching, Bearden said a passion for teaching cannot be taught.

Of the many observations Bearden makes in her book, this line stayed with me: All students want to be seen -- even those who seem uncurious, cold and remote.

So, I asked her at the book festival: Can every student be seen when teachers now have 33 kids in their classes?

When teachers are overwhelmed, Bearden said they may have to be more judicious with their attention, giving it to students who need it most. But it's important everyone in the school contributes to the effort of ensuring every student is seen, she said.

Bearden then talked about an interesting exercise she’s done with teachers in which every child’s photo was set out, and teachers were given colored stickers to place on each photo indicating they knew the child very well, pretty well or a little. If the teachers had zero relationship with the students, they didn't put a sticker on the photos.

At the end, the staff was surprised to see some photos without a single sticker.  A plan was developed to reach out to those students by sitting next to them at lunch and getting to know them, said Bearden.

I thought about Bearden’s comments later in the weekend when I talked to a group of kids about how their first weeks of school went. These were students from different districts and from private and public schools. Most had been back in school for three weeks to a month.

Several said they had teachers who still didn’t know their names. Two said they’d had classes in the past where the teachers never got their name right.  (At Ron Clark, not only do staff members have to learn the names of all 100 students,  the students have to learn every staff member's name, including the cafeteria workers.)

I wanted to share this excerpt from Bearden’s book "Crash Course" as it speaks to the power of making a connection with a student who seems to prefer remaining invisible:

Quiet and sullen, Jeremy slouched at his desk with his long bangs covering his eyes. When called upon he would answer in his heavy drawl, “I daunt know, ma’am.” He took no initiative and all his comments had to be solicited from me. When it came to homework, I was dismayed by his lack of effort, and it pained me to see how low his grades were. I knew that Jeremy was smart. I guess some would simply label him as lazy.

At this point, I had been teaching for a few years and I had a good repertoire of strategies for even the most reluctant learners. In fact, Jeremy happened to be in a class full of students who were highly engaged in my lessons. But I just couldn’t figure out how to inspire him. One day when I kept him after class I decided to change my approach.
“Jeremy, what do you love?” I asked. “Ma’am? What d’ ya mean?” he asked.

“What do you love to do? What do you get excited about? I have taught you language arts lessons using football, basketball, food, popular television shows, books, games, music, and more. I have tried to use things that my students love, yet you seem completely unimpressed by them all. I want you to love learning, Jeremy, so I need to know what does get your interest.”

He stared at me for a moment, and I just stared back and waited. “Fishin’,” he said. “I love fishin’.”
“Okay. Then fishing it is.”

That night was a long one for me. Right after school I made a few stops and picked up wooden dowels, string, magnets, and metal washers. After some experimentation I had it all figured out. Late that night I loaded my daughter Madison’s baby pool into the car. I arrived early the next morning to reserve the gymnasium and to set it all up.

When Jeremy’s class arrived, I was ready. “Everyone, leave all your things here. We are going to do our lesson in the gym today.”

The students scurried with me to the gym and gathered around me as I explained the task.
“Guess what? Today we will be speed fishing!” I revealed.

“Speed fishing? What on earth is that?” Ansley asked.

“Well, you will be placed into relay teams. When it is your turn, you will cast your line into the pool. The magnet on the line will function as a fishhook. In this pool there are over one hundred paper fish, each with a metal washer on the back of it. Each fish also has a different word written on it. After you catch a fish, you must then run with it to the other side of the gym, where you will find several plates for your team. You must put your fish on the appropriate plate, based upon which part of speech it is. Then the next member of your team will cast. You will receive a point for each correctly placed fish. You must move quickly and accurately. Are you ready?”

“Yes!” they all exclaimed.

“This is so cool!” added Andrew.

Once I heard their enthusiasm I told them, “You all need to thank Jeremy. He gave me this great idea!”

They all high-fived and clapped for Jeremy, and he smiled broadly with reddened cheeks.

“When you hear the music, you may begin. On your mark, get set . . . go!” I yelled while cuing a twangy country music song on the sound system. Cheering and laughing, the kids raced with intensity as they completed the game. When I dismissed the class that day, Jeremy lingered behind. As he walked past me, he looked up, brushed his long bangs aside, and with smiling eyes stuttered, “Um . . . thanks for today. That was . . . uh, pretty fun.”

After that day, things gradually changed with Jeremy. He seemed to realize that I cared about him and that I truly wanted him to love learning. He laughed more, he smiled more, and he participated more with each passing day. It took a little longer for his schoolwork to improve, but he was receptive to my urging and even started to ask for help.

The game I created lasted only twenty minutes, but it changed Jeremy for the entire year. Speed fishing. Who knew?

For information on how to book Kim Bearden for your next event, visit PremiereSpeakers.com/kim_stewart_bearden.

Source: ajc.com

Kim Bearden

Want Kim Bearden for your next event?

Find out more information, including fees and availability.
Find Out More
Keep Reading
Teaching Through Struggles- Kim Bearden on the Beyond Speaking Podcast
Kim Bearden
Kim Bearden
August 13, 2019
In this episode of the Beyond Speaking podcast, best selling author ...
Kim Bearden honored by Mercedes-Benz USA as a #GreatnessLivesHere hero.
Kim Bearden
Kim Bearden
September 05, 2017
We are so privileged and proud to be working with such great speakers ...
RCA Goes to Washington | Kim Bearden Inducted Into the National Teachers Hall of Fame
Kim Bearden
Kim Bearden
May 05, 2016
The Ron Clark Academy Co-Founder and Director Kim ...
Teaching Through Struggles- Kim Bearden on the Beyond Speaking Podcast
In this episode of the Beyond Speaking podcast, best selling author and co-founder of the Ron Clark Academy, Kim Bearden shares how she handles personal struggles while teaching in the classroom, her journey of adopting her three sons from Soweto South Africa. and the importance of surroundingwith people who fill your soul. The guest host for...
Read More
Kim Bearden honored by Mercedes-Benz USA as a #GreatnessLivesHere hero.
We are so privileged and proud to be working with such great speakers that make an impact all over the world. Congratulations to Kim!
Read More
RCA Goes to Washington | Kim Bearden Inducted Into the National Teachers Hall of Fame
The Ron Clark Academy Co-Founder and Director Kim Bearden has officially been inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame, making her one of the top five educators in the country! She traveled to Washington D.C. to join her fellow inductees at The White House for an evening of well-deserved recognition and celebration. All five induct...
Read More
'Of Teaching, Living and Learning' | A Testimonial On Kim Bearden
Source: Facebook Kim Bearden recently had the honor of delivering the keynote for a Teacher Appreciation Dinner hosted byValdosta North Rotary Club. This event allowed members of the community the opportunity "to celebrate, honor, and support our public school educators in the Lowndes County and Valdosta City School Systems."Soon after the ...
Read More
Kim Bearden | GISD Convocation Storify - Garland, TX
The only thing all-star educator Kim Bearden loves more than teaching is getting other educators as fired up as she is about changing students' lives. Kim was recently invited to speak at theGISD Convocation in Garland, TX and has received an outpouring of stellar feedback from attendees! The Garland Independent School District educates 58,000...
Read More
Kim Bearden | American Graduate Champion Feature
Co-founder of The Ron Clark Academy, award-winning educator, and bestselling authorKim Beardenwas recently featured as one of American Graduate's Champions! "An American Graduate Champion commits their time, skills and resources to make sure that young people succeed. He or she is an individual who plays an active role in improving educatio...
Read More
A Place Where Everybody Knows Your Name: Should That Be School?
Written by Maureen Downey At the AJC Decatur Book Festival this weekend, I had the delightful job of introducing the dynamic Kim Bearden, co-founder of the Ron Clark Academy and the recipient the Oscar of teaching, the Milken award. She is also the author of the new book, "Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me."; Bearden was a m...
Read More
The Other Half of the Ron Clark Story
Written by Maureen Downey At this weekend's 2014 AJC Decatur Book Festival, I am introducing Kim Bearden, cofounder, executive director, and language arts teacher at the Ron Clark Academy, the well-known middle school and educator training facility in Atlanta. Bearden's book, "Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me,"; came out thi...
Read More
News and Reviews on Kim Bearden's Book "Crash Course"
Over the last several days, we've been flooded with news articles and reviews regarding one of our exclusive speakers, Kim Bearden's, new book release, "Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me," including its recent #1 spot on Amazon's Best-Selling Kindle list. It has been inspiring and thrilling to read the impact of Bearden's h...
Read More
Co-Founder of The Ron Clark Academy Discusses New Book
We are so excited to see Kim Bearden on The Cycle show recently. The co-founder of the Ron Clark Academy, a school leading the way in middle school education, joins the show to discuss her new book, "Crash Course."; Biography Kim Bearden - Ron Clark Academy co-founder, executive director and language arts teacher - is an award-win...
Read More